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Obama Acknowledges News Industry In Transition

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And speaking of political discourse, the press conference last week with President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro produced some seriously awkward moments as Obama pressed the Cuban leader to answer questions from U.S. reporters. President Obama says tough questions from the media are just as important to democracy here at home. And he says the political press aren't being as tough as they should be in this presidential race. Here's NPR's Scott Horsley.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: President Obama says he's constantly asked by other world leaders what is happening in America's vulgar and divisive presidential campaign? He suggests part of the problem is a press corps more focused on clicks and ratings than the facts.

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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: When it doesn't matter what's true and what's not, that makes it all but impossible for us to make good decisions on behalf of future generations.

HORSLEY: At a dinner last night honoring the best in political journalism, Obama spoke as a politician who's been on the receiving end of tough questions but also as a somewhat cranky news consumer who thinks too many reporters are falling down on the job. He did not specifically mention coverage of Donald Trump, but he complained the mere ability to draw attention has overtaken reason and analysis.

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OBAMA: If I say that the world is round and someone else says it's flat, that's worth reporting. But you might also want to report on a bunch of scientific evidence that seems to support the notion that the world is round.

HORSLEY: Obama's views are echoed by Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit media training center. She says while consumers today have more news outlets to choose from than ever, there's still an unmet need for authoritative information.

KELLY MCBRIDE: Consumers want a source to tell them what the truth is. If we don't do it with good intentions, somebody with bad intentions will tell them what to believe.

HORSLEY: Obama acknowledged the news industry is in transition, under pressure to cut cost and find new revenues. Good journalism has never been easy, he said, or more essential. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.